Sep 5, 2010

Bangladesh issues red alert as anthrax spreads out in new areas

Bangladesh issued a red alert on Sunday over an outbreak of anthrax which has infected nearly 300 people and killed about 150 cattle in the six north-west districts of the country in the past two weeks.

The outbreak was first detected on August 19 in Sirajganj district, 150 km (90 miles) from the capital Dhaka. The victims fell sick after eating beef from anthrax-affected cattle.

"We have issued a red alert and asked livestock officials, civil surgeons and health workers to fan out to detect sick cows and single out them immediately," Abdul Latif Biswas, minister for fisheries and livestock, told a news conference.

Infected people suffer fever, severe pain and swollen tissues, often with lesions. The disease can be deadly if not treated immediately.

Anthrax commonly infects cattle which ingest or inhale the bacterium while grazing, and can infect people who come into contact with them or consume their meat. But it does not spread from human to human.

Some 500,000 ampoules of cattle vaccine have been distributed in the affected districts, the minister said, adding pharmaceutical companies had been asked to produce more. Carcasses of infected cattle have been buried.

The government of Bangladesh on Sunday issued the red alert across the country following the spread of anthrax in new districts.

So far anthrax spread into six districts of the country. The disease was first identified in Sirajganj on August 20 and then it spread out into Pabna on August 22, Tangail on August 31, Kushtia on September 1 and Meherpur and Chuadanga on September 4.

At least 15 more people are feared to be infected with anthrax in Meherpur and Chuadanga districts, health officials said.

Of them, 14 were identified in Gangni upazila of Meherpur while another in Alamdanga upazila of Chuadanga.

Gangni upazila health officer Dr Zohurul Islam said 14 people were suspected to have contracted with anthrax at Debipur, Karamdi and Jhorpota villages.

Some of them are undergoing treatment at the upazila health complex, Zohurul added.

Meherpur civil surgeon Dr Abdus Sahid said they are still waiting for experts' opinion on the blood and skin samples sent to Dhaka.

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